Islamapobia Awareness Month 2020

What is Islam?

According to MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), a not-for-profit company that helps to empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in British media and politics, Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths, meaning that it shares its roots with Christianity and Judaism. Muslims therefore consider Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” because of their shared beliefs. The Arabic word “Islam” means “submission” and is derived from the word “peace”.

What is Islamophobia?

Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. It is not just hate crime and abuse, but also the way in which Muslims are sometimes excluded from realms of civic life (e.g. through workplace discrimination).

What is Islamophobia Awareness Month?

Islamophobia Awareness Month was co-founded by MEND with other British organisations in 2012 to deconstruct and challenge the stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.

The month-long campaign, which takes place each November, aims to work with police and crime commissioners, local councils and MPs, journalists, mosques, universities, schools and other organisations to raise awareness of Islamapobia and to encourage better reporting of incidents to the police.

Why is it important?

In light of prejudices like Islamaphobia, many organisations within the legal profession have commitments to diversity and inclusion and recognise the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. Yet, as many junior lawyers are all too aware, inequality and discrimination remain woven into the legal profession.

Although, as junior lawyers, we don’t make management decisions within our firms, we can still make positive contributions to the culture of our workplaces by having a clear understanding of the value that diversity and inclusion can bring. The more that lawyers have the conversation about race and religion, the more likely it is that diversity and inclusion will become a strategic priority for firms, now and in the future.

So, why is it important to have a diverse and inclusive profession?

– Legal and regulatory requirementsAs lawyers, we are sticklers for following the rules! A diverse and inclusive approach is less likely to fall foul of the Equality Act 2010 and the discrimination offences contained therein.

– The Solicitors Regulation Authority also sets out requirements for diversity and inclusion. For example, principle six states that solicitors should act “in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion” and chapter one of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and REFLs warns not to “unfairly discriminate by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships […]”.

Attracting and retaining the best talent

– Inclusive recruitment practices attract diverse talent and more talent!

– Also, with diversity comes a broader spectrum of perspectives, approaches and ideas. These enhance the ability to deliver first-class services to (hopefully) an increasingly diverse client base.

Attracting and retaining more diverse clients

– Clients expect results to be delivered quickly, cost effectively and accurately, but many also seek out lawyers who share their characteristics. So, a more diverse workforce often correlates with a more diverse client base.

Creating an inclusive environment

– The consequences of not achieving diversity and inclusion can include the loss of passionate and talented lawyers from the profession. Not only would this be a crying shame for clients (who would have less choice), it would reduce diversity amongst leadership and this would make it harder to achieve long-term positive change.

The right thing

– Beyond the business case for diversity and inclusion is, of course, social justice. It is self-evident that creating a diverse and inclusive profession, that everyone can access, is the right and fair thing.

– No one should be bullied, belittled, marginalised or excluded due to their race, religion or belief (or any other protected characteristic), whatever ones moral, religious or irreligious persuasion.

It takes time for change to take place, but if we, as junior lawyers, have a clear understanding of the value that diversity and inclusion can bring, then we will be better placed to make a positive contributions to our places of work and, gradually, we will see improvements to diversity and inclusion within the profession.

This note was written by Jessica Smith. Jessica is Diversity and Inclusion Secretary for the Junior Lawyers Division for Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and a recently qualified solicitor.